Thursday, 31 March 2011

Happy Birthday Tony xxxxxxxx Flowers after the Rain

Today is my brother Tony's birthday. We lost Tony to valvular heart disease suddenly 8 yrs ago! No one knew, least of all Tony & it was & remains devastating to us all. Today has been a crying day, not one of happy memories just one of loss! How sad, how stupid & how awful that he is not with us. I know its a selfish day when it should be a happy day but I can remember him with gladness the rest of the year but the next two months are all about the sadness & loss. I am sure most people who have shared in such loss know what I mean. How do we cope, I don't know, life moves forward even when we don't want it to. I have been through a devastating divorce & got over it when I never thought I would see the light of day but the loss of a loved one NEVER goes away it just becomes livable!
Happy Birthday bro, miss you all the time & wish you were here with us! Be at peace till we see each other again xxx

After a day of rain the weeds have gone ballistic, but the flowers have popped out to brighten my day so thanks God, needed that :D

The weather is warmer out than in at the moment but for some reason I can't get the fire to stay alight :( so I am on a baking frenzy well a small one, just to warm the room up, well that's my excuse! Feeling a bit blehhhh the last couple of days. I am having a lot of trouble with my hands going numb & burning. I have been under the impression its carpal tunnel but it seems it could be arthritis in the neck so I am trying some specific tablets to see if they make a difference. So far they are helping but I think the medication needs to build up to be truly effective so I am knackered from hardly any sleep (as the pain wakes me all night) & everything is an effort. Still I am alive & thankful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Romania, Bucharest & Ikea

                      Up to our ears in painting & making good we had a welcome break on Friday. An airport pick up of friends & a combined trip to Ikea Romania. It sounds very sad I know but the excitement of getting out for a day, far away from village life can only be understood when you live in such a small place :) I love being here & my village but going to one of my favourite shops was a very exciting prospect & being Ikea we knew what to expect & what's what. Nigel just wanted the Swedish meatballs, me I wanted to peruse the market hall :):):)
So off towards Rousse we went. Pyce in cyrillic, Rousse is pronounced rooosay & is spelt in various ways including, Ruse,  I have no Idea why a bit like Veliko Turnovo also spelt Tarnovo!
I really like Rousse & must go for the day soon. Its one place I will definitely take my mum when she comes.
On entering Rousse you are faced with the old communist blocks, they go on forever. We got lost in there once. It was a bit frightening at the time as we were very new & green & were not sure of the area
The people who live there are ordinary hard working people who are very nice & bear us no ill will in fact the only thing they may be slightly interested in is the fact we are in an English car :D  Here if you want to live where there is work you live in a flat like this. I know various flats some are very old & depressing still, but others have been lovingly renovated & painted & are now very modern inside.
The outside is of no consequence mostly here but more & more people are putting in new windows & painting balconies, it's all a matter of money, expendable income & there is not much of that here!  Rousse is a big city & I hate big cities but the centre has some lovely pedestrian areas with cafe culture at its best, beautiful parks & as always wonderful achitecture, but we were not going there & we made our way to the border crossing.
Getting through the border is so easy now with no problems whatsoever, it has even changed loads since we last crossed. We went to a kiosk for people with road tax to pay the bridge toll which was 6 Euros or 12 leva. Now I was under the impression via the Sofia echo that the toll had been reduced to 2 Euro in order to attract more visitors over & Romania were holding off, boy were they wrong. We have found you can't trust any information you read, if I want to know something I always ask our solicitor & friend Diana, she is the only person that gets it right, so if you are crossing be safe & take extra just in case :)
           The bridge needs some maintenance as there are bloody great holes in it now, slightly worrying!
I wish I could say The Danube is beautiful but it's not, it's all muddy & murky, so where did the blue go??????
Once we got to the Romanian border we went through, no problems once again & you would normally buy a vignette (road tax) in a little kiosk but they have sectioned it off so lorry's go one side & cars the other & no kiosk. I think there was a new building but Nigel sailed past & I immediately went into panic mode, as the police are well known for stopping you for no reason & will always find a reason to get a bribe off you, well no road tax would be a major problem.  Obviously people do go in or through for the day without paying for one & now they are putting the kibosh on them as you have to show it on the way back through. On the way out of the border the car went into a huge hole & picked up a wobble, all very worrying. The vignette is for 7 days even if you only want it for the day! One way to make a little extra money.
We went to a petrol station to buy a vignette, but they did not have one then after a few we found one that did sell them but they only took Lei, we had Euros & BG Leva oh why did I not think of this scenario? :(
So now my trip became one of tenseness.
Romania is immediately different to Bulgaria. First you notice all the houses have tin roofs, some rusty some gleaming & some painted but all tin, must be really loud when it rains!
They are also quite pretty with decorative stucco & pretty colours in amongst the normal run down houses, its not THAT different :) The other thing that is so obviously different is the houses are built on top of each other with no land. Lots of new building is going on, again with houses all on top of each other, reminds me of living in Croydon :(
 The main road runs through all the little villages turning into small towns then back to villages all the way to Bucharest. Lots of lovely churches along the way & tiny little chapels too.
 Parts of Bucharest are manic & the traffic was pretty bad in places, but not as bad as we have encountered in UK on the M25!
The drivers though are flipping mental & love to honk their horns, Nigel very heartily joins in, he loves it, me, I was worried about the police but they were nowhere in sight :) I concentrated on looking at the buildings & people & must have got on Nigel's nerves with my chatter :D
Not all the roads are manic & some traffic is sedate :)
Tram, bus, car or cart, the choice is yours :D

There are all kinds of architecture, some good, some bad & some downright ugly!
Is that Dracula giving me the evil eye?

I guess it's convenient to be buried here as the tram stops right outside,
 in fact I could throw flowers at the graves!
Yes I know bad photo but they are all taken from inside a moving vehicle!
Yes another church, as in Bulgaria they are everywhere :D

Can't have all those photo's of churches without one of a priest!
Monuments & fresco's
The most famous monument of all M
Reminds me of London
Apart from the communist blocks with shops beneath
We made our way to the airport first as our friends were due to arrive from England. The airport is tiny & everyone has to wait outside to meet arrivals. We arrived as I said earlier with no Lei & it was apparent as soon as we arrived we needed money to park as there were more parking attendants than passengers! After being told to move on by a guy tha spotted us from miles away I asked if the parking would take Euros. The obvious answer was no, why would I not realise this? They are the same as us in the EU but not using the money yet! Sometimes I can be such a div! I asked if we could get change in the airport, yep, so off we went parked & made our way to the departures. There was a money changer there so we changed our sterling & Euros panic over. It was cool waiting for Bev & Kareena as you get a snippet of the people. There were notices everywhere banning cameras & although this was probably only meant for the air strip & planes I was not taking any chances, yep I am a coward sometimes! So no photo's of the gypsy lady in her amazing colourful clothes & head scarf, beautiful would have made a fantastic photo.  There were the official unofficial taxi drivers baying & vying for fare's then arguing with each other when one got in front, quite amusing. It was a gorgeous hot day & I was dressed in my summer ware enjoying the sun & people watching, when they came out. Kareena's cases were so heavy she was glad to get them in the car :)  Then it was off to Ikea & a coffee at last.
I was surprised to see not only a H&M but also a Next!!!!!! Bonus :D Today though it's all about the Ikea!!!
First things first off to the canteen for food & drink
I just love the market hall its the part of Ikea with all the decorative bits & bobs are & all the kitchen gadgets, Love, Love, Love it! I could spend an absolute fortune on garden dinner ware, kitchen ware & jars & bottles alone :D  Well we had no money to let me lose so This is what I purchased, all came to less than 30 leva 15 quid!!!!!!!!
Wood oil, Tea pot, Storage jars (for spices etc) & Jug!
I have already oiled the kitchen table & chopping boards :) The trip home was uneventful as we managed to get a vignette from a petrol station before we hit the ring road. We crossed the border with no probs & managed to get pulled over by the cops in Rousse :D:D:D For some reason they asked for our BG residents card as well as our passport, I told him it's at the Kat office in VT, which it is but really all I needed to do was speak loads of fast English to him as they just wave you off then, bless!
Going back to Bev & Norm's for refreshments we didn't get home to bed till the early hours but a good day was had & very much enjoyed. A normal shopping day in UK but here its a big day out!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Paint, Paint, Paint, Paint, Dust!

Oh the saga of the renovation.... The downstairs living/dining/kitchen, as it is at the moment, has been a real labour of love from my lovely husband. When he was away I was so down & the state of the kitchen, or lack of, became a real thing! On Nigel's return he bought back a few kitchen cabinets we purchased on Ebay for a pittance along with a genuine Belfast sink :)  Right that sounds easy you may think, ha, think again, this is a Bulgarian cottage/farm house. It has taken a long time to get the downstairs to completion for numerous reasons & add to that it is all temporary as it will eventually be just our living room & you will see why Nigel is my hero, yes darling you :)
All this work along with the numerous daily chores like chopping & splitting logs & bringing it up for the days fires, sorting the dogs & working in rooms full of furniture & daily cooking & living items, well I could not have done it, it was bad enough trying to cook a meal in it. There were also the days of no work as we needed to have shopping trips, doctor visits & when weather permitted visit friends. Living among the mess was awful too, all the dust, brick & concrete, it's like living on a building site very unpleasant! Now we can see an end to all the mess. All the sanding has been done all the walls & ceilings have been sealed. The kitchen is completed, just awaiting the clean up operation & the last of the painting is almost complete. Not quite finished but we are on the threshold of a comfortable home. The clean up mind you is immense as we have nowhere to store things so now I have to clean every single kitchen item & utensil, wash sofa covers & all our cushions, wash & steam clean all the rugs & off course clean every stick of furniture!
Nigel's busy elsewhere now so I may get lots done its just where to start????? There are still 5 doors to paint & a garden to clean up, dig over & plant up! Starting to feel a bit overwhelmed now! I managed to finish pruning the grape vine & have washed all the cushions & sofa covers, so the list has changed a little :D
No photos yet as I want to get everything sorted first :)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring Sprang, Then Went BAck To Sleep!

Well gald I made hay while the sun shone as its well & truly disappeared. Now we have dank, danp, foggy weather all chilly & nasty!
Still soon be April & then all should be great :)
So here is a bit of spring that sprung, for a week......
The crocus & snow drops came to life & looked beautiful for a week
The animal kingdom became very perky
I have learnt through experience not to go in & pet or make friends with Yovo's live stock as I end up eating them & that upsets me :( So I keep my distance & enjoy the food :D
Smile :D  Mum Dad & two chicks :)
We will be eating one of these in just a few weeks on St George's day, so no way am I petting my food!
I would love to have live stock, in particular Turkeys, Ducks, Pigs & Sheep. All my fave foods, but alas I am too soft & could not kill & eat what I know :(:(:( I don't even have chickens as I get fresh eggs from a neighbour & the ones I buy are cheaper than keeping chickens for eggs!
I just had to take a photo of the blue sky, makes me feel warm just looking at it :)
Well a short lived Spring but as we all know in Bulgaria it can change over night. everything is wet now as we have had really damp wet fog but it could be dry as a bone very shortly, we can hope :)

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Cossie Out, Distiling Rakia & Dogs

Phew! What a few days we have had here in Bulgaria, hot, hot, hot! We have clocked temps of 42c in our garden. This in in the full sun & a great start to the 2011 tan, I am now tinged brown :D After the Neurologist I took it easy & read on the lounger, in the sun, reading , in my cossie & skirt just in case a neighbour popped in :) At the moment the hottest place is in the front so people could see me! I planted up some seeds, life was lovely & relaxing. This is why we are living here. The weather is fantastic we just have a bad two or three months & most of that is sunny. As I write this though it is overcast with rain so  we will have a hiccup for a week, but then look forward to 6 months of sun, sun, sun with the occasional storm & a bit of wetness. We were eating outside at restaurants well into November this last Autumn & Christmas day was 24c & sunny so different to the damp chill of the UK with its one week here & there summer. The dogs have been too hot, so while Nigel was sealing the ceiling Reg could come indoors, as its cooler in than out. Sophie loves to sunbathe & then fall asleep in a shady spot, then play fight, & so it goes. Mini has a little play then sleeps on the shaded dog bed & Kami, well she loves all weathers, playing & digging (which is not good) then finds refuge under a big bush that they have hollowed out like a cavern.
Lots of interest on what Nigel is doing :)
 We have also managed to get the Rakia distilled & I have started the pruning of the grape vines, which will take me awhile as my hands are knackered & the thing I have wrong with my ear makes getting the overhangs dangerous :(
So we finally got the second batch of Rakia done 7 ltrs from this batch. The last lot was 13ltrs & has been maturing for 6 months. This batch has come out as 69% vol, same as last, so we have to add voda & get it to 45% then mature it for a year. I am going to make some Kirsch from the last lot & different flavour brandies when the fruits are ready, one of which will be Walnut. I love the fact we can make our own wine & brandy even though we hardly ever drink it is still very satisfying like making the jams & chutneys fruits of our labour :) Yovo has his own still so we take the barrel of fermented fruit & sugar (this being the grape mush left after the wine), wood for the fire, flour for the seal & soda & spirit for the mix & get it distilled there.
First things first the fire has to be lit, then the spirit & soda is mixed with the fermented juice, put into the still then is sealed with a flour & water seal.
The steam goes through the pipe then turns into liquid as it  cools down through the spiral pipe which is in a 45 gallon drum of cold water
And out comes the Rakia
A jar is then filled with the Rakia & tested to find the strength
Then off course we have to taste it & bottle it!

I have to tell you the first tasting is ughhhhhh! so ropey :) I mature ours for a year but our friends will start to drink theirs straight away thats why so many ex pats don't like it. I am going to make different brandies with it too, still bloody strong though :)